Gay-straight club sparks protests in middle school
Despite the protests of parents alarmed by the impending formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance club at a Mead Valley middle school, administrators said the Val Verde Unified School District won't stand in the way.
"We have an open forum policy," said Mike Bazan, spokesman for the district, which serves portions of Perris, Moreno Valley and unincorporated Riverside County. "Any and all student-run groups can go through the process to be established, but they need an adult sponsor."
The word spread Monday after several students at Tomas Rivera Middle School announced on the site's closed-circuit TV that they were gay or bisexual and wanted to rally classmates to form a Gay-Straight Alliance.
About 15 people peacefully stood outside the school periodically Friday, trying to buttonhole parents as they dropped off and picked up their children.
Of the 769 Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in the state, fewer than 10 are in middle schools. If one takes root at Tomas Rivera, which serves grades six through eight, it would be the first at an Inland middle school, according to a Gay-Straight Alliance Web site.
Bazan and school Principal Ernesto Lizarraga met for an hour with concerned parents. Bazan said Lizarraga told them that forming such a club was "well within district policy. It's certainly within the rights of students, even if it goes against the grain of some of the parents."
He pointed out that the club hadn't yet been approved, "but most likely would be."
Brandi Estes is among a group of perturbed parents planning to pass out fliers in hopes of stopping the club. She said she has nothing against gays and lesbians, but "how can a child 10 or 11 going into middle school decide if he or she wants to be straight or gay?"
"It's absurd. If that's the lifestyle they choose at 17 or 18, let them knock themselves out. But these are children and I don't think they have the mental capacity to make that decision, which can be life-changing."
She also questions the purpose of a Gay-Straight Alliance.
"What can they possibly talk about? What are they getting together to do? Is it a place to meet other gay people, or a place to bring others in?" she said. "I'm very upset."